How to Become a Ghostwriter?

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become a ghostwriter

As easy as it may sound, ghostwriting isn’t for everyone. Yes, there are harder things out there, but people get awards and praise for them, they get retirement packages, et cetera.

Ghostwriting is a profession reserved for those that—for lack of a better verb—enjoy working behind the scenes.

If you’re looking to write blog posts, articles, or books for someone else, then ghostwriting is for you!

So, you might want to become a ghostwriter for purely monetary reasons or because you just love writing and don’t care about prizes or accolades. Whatever the case, there are a couple of qualities you must have to be a good ghostwriter and have a profitable ghostwriting career.

In this article, I explain the process of becoming a ghostwriter, lay out the things you need to know as a ghostwriter, and tips for becoming successful in this field.

One of the most important steps in becoming a ghostwriter is finding your niche, and I’m going to help you with that as well!

Let’s get started!

Who is a Ghostwriter?

Ghostwriters are people who work on someone else’s behalf to create content that they can’t do themselves. It could be anything from an article, blog post, public speech, book, or movie script.

Ghostwriting is a lucrative business with no barriers to entry and the demands for ghostwriters are constantly increasing.

How do Ghostwriters go about producing their content, how does the ghostwriting process work?

a ghostwriter and a client talk about a project.
A ghostwriter and a client talk about a project.

Well, every ghostwriter is unique, but—usually—the ghostwriter begins by researching the topic, learning about the market for the client, and putting together a plan or quotation.

Once the client has approved the idea and budget, the ghostwriter will then begin writing for them. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on how long the client has.

One of the most important things for you or any newbie to understand about ghostwriting is that there are a lot of different pricing structures for writing.

Hence we have different types of ghostwriters.

Just like with any profession or industry, there are two main types of ghostwriters. The first is the freelance ghostwriter who works on a per-project basis, and the other is the string of authorship ghostwriters.

In most cases, the client (the one who is credited with the work) has the final say on what makes it into the final product. What does and does not make it into the final content is always in line with the credited author’s name, reputation, and the “author’s voice.”

Benefits of being a Ghostwriter

benefits of being a ghostwriter

1. A Source of Income

Some ghostwriters are paid so well and don’t have to worry about promotion, distribution, or anything else.

I must stress though, that this is rarely the case with most ghostwriters (especially those who are not native English speakers and from developing countries).

However, ghostwriting is a good way to make some extra income. In general, writing can be profitable if marketed efficiently. Some writers choose to come up with their own product, while others decide to become a ghostwriter, either way, there’s some money to be made. The advantage that ghostwriting has compared to selling your content by publishing using your name is that ghostwriters get paid regardless of their content’s sales revenue.

So even though ghostwriting might not seem as glamorous as publishing your own content, how could you turn down an opportunity like this? An opportunity to always get an upfront payment for your work.

2. Perfecting Your Craft

Another benefit of ghostwriting is that you also become a master at your craft as you write pieces for people. One Mr. Stanley H. Kaplan once said “Repetition breeds familiarity, familiarity breeds confidence, confidence breeds success.” You might be writing for the money, and whoever gets tired of money? Exactly! And before you know it, you have written over a hundred pieces. Writing in that niche becomes natural for you and, without extra effort, you become better than most writers in that niche.

3. Getting Paid Regardless of Sales Revenue

Last but not least is the leisure of not promoting published work. After ghostwriting a piece, your job is done! No need to market it or worry about putting together a bunch of social media posts advertising it. Plus, your work gets a wider audience than it would have had you published it on your own. If you are ghostwriting for a famous entity, they probably have a huge following, and your work becomes an instant bestseller.

Even though your name never makes it on any bestsellers list, just knowing that you’re worthy of that list is amazing.  

How to Become a Ghostwriter in 8 Steps

So how do you get started in this lucrative profession? How are you supposed to get climbing up in an arena in which you’re unknown?

That, coupled with the fact that you know so little about many corners of the industry, makes a tougher undertaking.

But it is a patient climb, and you need some guidance on how to make this climb better. In tandem with the last sentence, here are some tips for how to become a ghostwriter.

1. Choose a Niche

a writer is deep in thought in front of his laptop.
A writer is deep in thought in front of his laptop.

As I said in the intro, one of the most important steps in becoming a ghostwriter is finding your niche.

In many professions, specialization is key if you want to be the best at something. Being a general writer is good because it increases your chances of finding work and making more money. However, telling a client that you’re a general tells them that either you’re a newbie or indecisive.

When getting started, it’s good to explore many niches and write in them, all at once. Once you identify your niche, start specializing. Once you become a master at what you’ve chosen, you can explore other niches just to enrich your writing.

For example, if you’re a fantasy and romance writer, you might want to explore other genres and blog article writing to start writing about writing.

2. Work on Your Writing

Before you become a well-known individual in the ghostwriting circles, you’ll need proof that you’re a good writer.

In fact, if you want to ghostwrite smaller pieces like blog articles, you will always need to show an updated sample to new clients. So, you’ll need to get your work published—whether it’s books, articles, essays et cetera.

Putting your work out there for potential clients to sample means that you have to publish good pieces (first impressions matter). Networking is essential but without proof that you are actually good and hence a value addition for the client, you won’t get a lot of work.

There are several ways of getting your work published, blogs, podcasts, publishing on kindle, etc.

3. Develop an Ever-Evolving Style

It is okay if you craft projects that are in your own voice, but it is also prudent to remember that when you ghostwrite, you are not writing as you.

I mean, you could maintain ghostwriting success using an unbending personal writing style and still enjoy huge success (because your clients will be looking for that exact style).

However, having a derivatively changing style is important for a ghostwriter because—in some cases—a client might have a string of other works and there’s a need for coherence.

4. Perfect your Collaborative Skills

writers are seated near a table, each with a different laptop.
Writers are seated near a table, each with a different laptop.

If you’re to be a good Ghostwriter, you need to learn how to be a good team player. You need to learn how to work and communicate with your clients effectively.

If you know you are already a good communicator and your team playing skills are perfect, then you’re good; if not, you need to practice these soft skills.

Learn how to clear and effective bids, proposals, or contracts. Starting on the right foot with each client is key. Good freelance proposals cover the terms of the contract and clearly outline your responsibilities as the ghostwriter—it leaves the client with very few unanswered questions.

You also need to work on your interview skills, whether it’s listening or speaking. You need to learn how to be a better listener and know what type of writing and questions to ask and observe your clients, their manners of speech, and stylistic tendencies.

5. Network

One of the key steps in almost all kinds of business environments is building a network. It’s no different when it comes to ghostwriting, and you have to network every chance you get.

When you build a good network, it becomes easier to get the attention of potential clients. Clients who’ve never heard of you could be associates of someone in your network, and a simple word of mouth could put you in the forefront of the clients’ ghostwriter options.

6. Start with Freelance Writing

an overhead shot of a writer beginning to write in her planner.
An overhead shot of a writer beginning to write in her planner.

Going back to the issue of proving that you can actually write, freelance writing is a very good step of starting.

The idea behind this is that you’re giving clients a taste of your authorial voice and level of sophistication. You’re telling potential clients what you can bring to the table and they can gauge whether you’re the one who can creatively bring their book idea to life.

I’m not going to widely cover this topic (it’s a topic for another post), but there are sites such as Upwork or Fiverr that let you set up a profile and submit bids to clients.

With freelance writing, you’re also testing yourself, seeing what you’re capable of.

7. Build a strong portfolio

Clients want a writer who can prove their expertise. A portfolio is a good way of establishing a strong record and presenting your skills to a potential client.

I strongly believe that a portfolio should be created with the sole purpose of convincing potential clients and hence they should focus on the task in question. This is also why choosing a niche is important, because if a client in the niche you specialize in looks at your portfolio, they are going to see excerpts that demonstrate your expertise in that niche.

8. Take Your Marketing to the Next Level

a freelance writer who is learning about digital marketing.
A freelance writer who is learning about digital marketing.

You have created a strong portfolio, you completed some projects, and you have confidence-boosting testimonials. Time is ripe for you to leverage your progress to market your ghostwriting services to a wider audience and clients with higher rates.

There are a couple of ways you can market yourself as a ghostwriter. One of the most effective ways is creating a blog. A blog allows you to have a wider audience and gains a bit more credibility. Apart from buying a domain name and hosting fees, you are promoting yourself for free.

Another way of promoting your ghostwriting services is by building a strong social media presence. Compared to other forms of promoting your ghostwriting services, social media is cheaper and easier, making it very effective.

You can also continue to market yourself Upwork and Co.

How to Be the Best Ghostwriter

What makes a good ghostwriter? If you want to make the most of your ghostwriting career, you need to come up with compelling ideas of your own.

The best ghostwriters come up with ideas that are not unique but also very original. You also need to be able to demonstrate the ability to write a ghostwritten piece in a very short time.

And… you need to be able to show some talent for writing. If you’re able to create a delicious piece in a short amount of time, then that’s also a good indication that you can write.

The ability to write a great ghostwritten article also means that you have excellent communication skills. You must be able to communicate with your clients very well because good communication leaves your clients assured that you can provide them with a quality piece of ghost-written material.

Good communication skills work with clients and readers as well. By good communication, I mean communicating clearly and concisely, and avoiding unnecessary jargon, so that you don’t confuse your readers.

If you’ve been writing for a while, you know how to structure your thoughts when converting them into text. This structure will help you when it comes to writing a good article or book.

Looking to Hire a Ghostwriter? Read this first

If you’re a writer, then you’ve probably already been thinking about ghostwriting. You may have even done some research about ghostwriting and found out all about the process.

Getting a ghostwriter is an excellent way to get your work published, but you should understand that getting a ghostwriting service has to be handled contextually.

There are a few different types of ghostwriting services that people use to get their work published. Some of the most common services involve ghostwriting magazine or blog articles, while others involve completing a book or journal article.

The difference in the type and difficulty of the services means the terms and conditions are usually different.

For example, ghostwriters working for bloggers typically charge a flat rate for their services. This flat rate can range from $20 to $200 per hour, depending on the type of work that is being done and the number of hours needed. Some ghostwriters charge on a per word basis. This means that the total cost of an article is typically based on the number of words written.

When it comes to books, it’s a more complex process and writers use different charging regimes compared to blogs or magazine articles.

Some writers believe in their efficiency and charge flat rates. They estimate how long it takes them to write a certain word count and charge per hour. But come to think of it, there’s a lot of research required, a lot of creativity needed—and with bigger word counts, the writing period is longer and hence a higher likelihood of unforeseen stumbling blocks or detours.

Some other writers estimate their monetary investments, effort, quality of their skillset, and time required to complete the task and charge based on that.

And also, while some are available for hire as individual freelancers, other ghostwriting services are provided by firms and are handled by a team. Freelancers are usually cheaper than ghostwriters who work in teams, but—most often than not—ghostwriting firms try hard to maintain a good reputation (less likely to scam clients, submit plagiarized work, et cetera).

I could go on and on, but this is as much as I could fit in this post.

In this video, you can learn more about working with a ghostwriter.

Summary on How to Become a Ghostwriter

For some writers becoming a ghostwriter is not a noble wish, but for most, it is a good source of money.

If one is a ghostwriter, then it seems of no use to cry about getting credit from readers and publishers; after all, the ideas and knowledge shared in the book are not the ghostwriter’s own ideas but the credited author’s.

Yes, the ghostwriter brings those ideas to life, but it’s only after taking notes detailing the thoughts and stylistic tendencies of the client that a ghostwriter produces a perfect piece of art.

So, if you’re ready to invest time and effort in developing your writing skills and marketing yourself, don’t hesitate to become a ghostwriter and earn money while doing what you love.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.